The Church of St Mary stands a little to the east of the Hall in the ornamental landscaped Park, the work of'Capability' Brown. The present building dates from around 1209, although it has been suggested that there was possibly an earlier wooden 'Saxon' church on the site. The medieval building was brought into the 20th century when electric lighting and heating was installed in 1999.
The church, founded by John de Fawesle (Fawsley), the first recorded vicar, consists of the west tower, nave (with two aisles), south porch and chancel. The tower, dating from the early 13th century, is built in the Decorated style of architecture and has four Y shaped bell openings and several corbels around the parapet. These take the form of animal heads. Above the tower's west window is an open niche, which at one time, probably housed a statue of Our Blessed Lady.
The tower contains a ring of four bells which were all thought to have been cast by Messrs Chamberlain, bell founders of London , in the 1450's. The four bells still hang in the tower today, something which is very rare.
The nave has 13th century bays consisting of octagonal piers with double chamfered arches. Above these are the large 17th century clerestory windows, very similar to the 'Brew House' windows in Fawsley Hall.
The roof, dating from the 15th century, consists of massive 'hammer beams' with lavish carved decorations. It was completely restored and saved from the ravages of death watch beetle during extensive restoration carried out in the mid-1960's.
Box pews are a feature of the church and they contain medieval carved panels which give some insight into domestic beliefs and the attitudes of people at the time. They were restored by James Dawson in 1992.
The organ, built by James Walker in 1839, is an interesting feature of the Church. Walker was renowned world-wide for his instruments. It was a finger barrel having a mechanism so that music could be produced from two barrels. There was also a conventional keyboard. Unfortunately, the barrels are no longer in existence. The organ, operated by tracker action, consists of four ranks of pipes controlled by six stops and swell and a pedal board. The bellows can be filled by lever or pedal.
The major part of the font is early 13th century, although the original carving has clearly deteriorated, and has been reworked.
In the south aisle is a spacious, high-sided pew which was used by members of the Knightley family. This enabled members of the family to be 'hidden' from the rest of the congregation. But the family needed to see what was going on at the altar, and from their pew they could look through the squint in the south wall of the chancel, to see what the priest was doing.
The main glories of St Mary's are undoubtedly its magnificent monuments, and there are fifteen of these dating from 1516 to 1856. The oldest is the brass of Thomas Knightley dated 1516, which shows him with his heart engraved above his portrait and with heraldry above this.
The second oldest monument is the fine alabaster free-standing tomb to Sir Richard Knightley and his wife Jane Skenard, heiress to Old Aldington. Sir Richard lies bare-headed, wearing an emblazoned coat with the SS collar of the Lancastrians. Jane, wearing an ermine trimmed gown and embroidered head­ dress, has an angel at her head. Both have their hands clasped in prayer and are
surrounded by the twelve graceful figures of their children - the weepers - at the sides of the tomb. There are four girls and eight boys, and the clothes,particularly of the latter, give an indication of their professions.
The brass, in the aisle, of Sir Edmund Knightley and his wife, in the aisle, also portrays their six daughters.
Three members of the Knightley family are commemorated in the massive monument on the north wall. This chronicles the virtues of the well-known family between 1566 and 1619. The memorial is aglow with colour - including fine gold - and was restored in 1930. There are two figures at prayer, supporting a great pediment, with cherubs sitting aloft. An inscription reads 'Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return'.
Five large architectural tablets in the chancel record the deaths of other members of the Knightley family in 1661, 1670, 1728, 1738 and 1741. The monumental tablet to Jane Grey Knightley has a small bust on top. Two very similar monuments of Devereaux (1681) and Elizabeth (1715) are in the north aisle. Both are set on tall pedestals, the latter is richly carved with majestic garlands and flowers. In the south aisle a very fine pre-Grecian monument without any figures, is a memorial to Lucy Knightley by Richard Westmacott, who trained in Rome under Canova.
A monument of 1856 in the south aisle to Selina Knightley is the work of John Gibson of Rome , and shows Selina being received by an angel.
Two other interesting 'possessions' are the stone bible on the window ledge in the north wall, and the modem pulpit, with many carved emblems of the Passion.
Fawsley's most distinguished treasure is its magnificent collection of medieval stained glass. The oldest glass in the church is the tiny window in the vestry. This depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and is said to date from the 13th century. It was restored in 1992 in memory of the Reverend Roy Dooley.
Amongst the good collection of 15th century glass there are medallions with scenes of the Good Samaritan, Christ on the way to Jerusalem, The Last Supper and the Crucifixion.
In the east window of the north aisle is the famous glass of the Washington family consisting of six heraldic shields depicting the family's coat of arms: these are quartered with the families into which they married. The glass, brought from Sulgrave in 1830, is of particular interest to historians, and especially Americans, because it clearly shows the Washington coat of arms upon which the American flag, the 'Stars and Stripes', is undoubtedly based.
The painting on the west wall shows the church as it was prior to 1866. It is particularly interesting to compare this with the present east window, which now features a portrait of Sir Charles and Lady Knightley. Sir Charles, who died in 1866, wears a blue mantle with scarlet hunting coat and white breeches, and Lady Knightley is clothed in a blue hooded cloak. The left side of the window represents the Good Samaritan parable. On the right the picture is reputed to be of Dorcas, a saintly woman, renowned for helping the poor with clothing.
The same painting shows a number of hatchments belonging to the Knightley family, and those that survive were restored in 1999, and re-hung on the west wall. Each diamond shaped hatchment, shows a deceased person's armorial bearings. The hearse, taking the body to church, was preceded by the hatchment, which was then taken back to the house after the service, and hung outside during the period of mourning, the time determined by the status of the member of the family. After the mourning period the hatchment was hung on the wall of the church. The oldest hatchment is for Lucy Knightley, who died on 20 August 1738 and shows, amongst other things, three goats' heads and three cats. Lucy Knightley was married twice; his first wife was Jane Grey, and his second Anne Adams. The second hatchment, with the motto 'Envita fortuna', was for Sir Charles Knightley, who died on 30 August 1864 . He was married to Selina Mary, the daughter of Felton Lionel Hervey. An element of the Hervey coat of arms is incorporated, and a hand - the Badge of Ulster - can also be seen. The Royal Arms hung on the north wall are those of George I, and were painted in 1716. The panel was restored in 1999.
The prayer desk and the altar rail appear to be of the early 19th century, and are in the style of the early Gothic revival. It has been suggested that the altar rail came from the Minstrel Gallery in the Hail. The plant troughs outside the north door are in memory of Jane Picton-Warlow, a much-loved local personality and fund-raiser.
Fawsley Map.pdf

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